For the first time in its history, the Illinois State Board of Education has taken over a public school district.
The members voted unanimously today to dissolve the elected board of the East St. Louis Public Schools and replace it with an appointed oversight authority.
State board member and long-time educator Vinni Hall of Chicago said she'd heard the concerns of East St. Louis residents and understands why the district is struggling.
"None of anything that anybody said is not going on deaf ears, but golly. Come on. We've got to do something," Hall said. "Either we step up to the plate or we fail these children badly."
Illinois Education Superintended Christopher Koch said removing the local elected board was “absolutely necessary” to address ongoing underachievement by students and mismanagement by the board.
But East St. Louis school board member Carl Officer says the move amounts to a power-grab by the state, and any low test scores or graduation rates are not the fault of the school board.
“Show me where my vote stopped someone from getting a good score or getting a decent education," Officer said. "I’m not going to let the state superintendent or any other yahoo in Springfield walk around telling me, we’re removing you because your kids didn’t do well--you are full of crap."
The district is already under state financial oversight, and entered into an agreement last year with state officials to try and bring up test scores. But state Superintendent Christopher Koch said academic performance remains a problem, with just 60 percent of students in the district overall meeting or exceeding state performance standards.
The state board today also authorized a $30 million loan to the district to help it meet cash flow needs. Board chairman Gery Chico said before that vote he would have been reluctant to approve the funds without a new board in place.
Across the river in Missouri, the St. Louis Public School District was decertified and placed in the hands of a state-appointed board in 2007.
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